A vote for the Green Party presidential ticket is a vote for voting

Voting for a third-party candidate in a presidential election is considered by many to be a waste of their vote. At its worse, as when Ralph Nader supposedly siphoned off votes for Al Gore in 2000, it’s blamed for aiding and abetting the victory of a nightmare candidate such as George W. Bush.

On the other hand, justifications exist for voting third party in the 2012 presidential election. At the Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky alludes to one.

Liberals are too nervous to think it, reporters too intent on a “down to the wire” narrative, and conservatives too furious and disbelieving, but it’s shaping up to be true: An extremely close election that on election night itself stands a surprisingly good chance of being not that close at all.

In other words, if Candidate X, who we dread, seems unlikely to win, we can afford to vote for a Candidate Z, about whom we’re enthusiastic, rather than Candidate Y, who has the best chance of blocking him or her. The more salient justification, however, presents itself when the extent to which Candidate Y (President Obama, in this case) reflects the interests of the rich and favors an expansionist foreign policy to only a marginally less degree than Candidate X (Romney). When the difference in the threat that the two candidates pose to the republic is negligible we need to find an alternative to both.

After the Green Party convention, where Jill Stein was nominated for president and Cheri Honkala for vice president, Nora Caplan-Bricker of the New Republic reported on yet another reason for voting third party.

By far the most common answer to my question—“Why vote for a candidate who won’t win?”—is that it’s important to “vote your values.” Greens talk about voting as a form of self-expression, as if it’s irrelevant whether you put someone in office by doing it. … Stein says her campaign is like “political therapy” for people who have had “self-destructive relationships to politics, like being stuck in an abusive relationship.” And her supporters think it will eventually work: Greens between the ages of 27 and 92 told me they think it’s possible they’ll see a president from the party in their lifetimes—that if they keep offering “political therapy,” mainstream voters who are frustrated by politics will start to want it: maybe in four years, maybe in eight, maybe in 50 or more.

At the New York Times, Susan Saulny reported:

A general internist who grew impatient with the social and environmental roots of disease, Ms. Stein said, ‘I’m now practicing political medicine because politics is the mother of all illnesses.'”

In other words, shifting the electorate to where it will stop voting out of fear is a long process, but one that needs to begin at some point.

Ms. Stein and Ms. Honkala’s key platform, reports Yana Kunichoff at Truthout, “is the Green New Deal, a jobs program which she says will both build on the success of the New Deal in the 1930s and also help move the United States toward a sustainable, green economy.” As an example of their foreign policy platform, which fundamentally revolves around drastically cutting military spending, let’s examine excerpts from their stance towards Israel and Palestine.

We recognize that Jewish insecurity and fear of non-Jews is understandable in light of Jewish history of horrific oppression in Europe. However, we oppose as both discriminatory and ultimately self-defeating the position that Jews would be fundamentally threatened by the implementation of full rights to Palestinian-Israelis and Palestinian refugees who wish to return to their homes. …. We reaffirm the right and feasibility of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in Israel. … We reject U.S. unbalanced financial and military support of Israel while Israel occupies Palestinian lands and maintains an apartheid-like system in both the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in Israel toward its non-Jewish citizens. Therefore, we call on the U.S. President and Congress to suspend all military and foreign aid, including loans and grants, to Israel until Israel withdraws from the Occupied Territories, dismantles the separation wall in the Occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem, ends its siege of Gaza and its apart­heid-like system both within the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in Israel toward its non-Jewish citizens.

For those of us who refuse to be guilt-tripped with charges of vote-wasting … for those of us who are tired of dragging ourselves into the polling both with heavy hearts and with only a sense of obligation — a vote for the Green Party’s presidential ticket is not just a vote against two parties that reflect the interests of a small minority of citizens, but a vote against the act of holding your nose while voting.

In other words, a vote for the Green Party is a vote for voting. And a vote for voting is also a vote for democracy.

Cross-posted from the Foreign Policy in Focus blog Focal Points.

12 replies »

  1. All true. I support everything the Greens stand for, and think it’s the only real solution to the mess we’ve created. And yet, there’s no hope in this election cycle, there’s that Supreme Court problem, and Romney may the most odious presidential candidate in my lifetime, and that’s saying something.

    The trick, as always, is localism. Yes, the Greens should have a presidential candidate. But they also need candidates for School Boards and Boards of Supervisors and the Planning Commission and Congress. That’s how you build a movement. That’s exactly what the hard Right republicans and ALEC, with Koch funding, started doing 20 years ago, and look what happened. It’s the only way to get some power back.

  2. Localism can be supported through a presidential campaign. It’s a practical, not symbolic decision.

    In 49 out of 50 states, a Presidential candidate, passing a threshold set by state law, can create a ballot line that local candidate can run and win on in the next election cycle. You want to see Greens win local elections. Vote for Jill Stein and create that ballot line. In many states it’s between 1%-5%. That’s a reasonable threshold for a tangible victory.

    Nationally if Jill Stein gets 5% both the candidate and the party can get future funding for a more viable campaign in the next election cycle. 5% of the vote creates a National Minor Party and funding is at 1$ per per vote. Those millions of dollars will go a very long way to building the Green Party.

    Voting for Stein and the Green Party is immensely practical when you consider the number of state Green Parties it can create and the potential for national party funding. The thresholds are attainable and realistic.

  3. Good read. I’ve been thinking for a couple of weeks about possibly voting for Jill Stein or maybe Gary Johnson. As a resident of Texas, I don’t suppose there’s much chance Obama will upset Romney here, but I agree with wufnik, Romney might just be the worst in my lifetime. I actually had a nightmare the other night that I was on the campaign trail, working for the Romneys. I can’t recall the last time I had a nightmare so frightening that I woke up sweating and with my heart pounding like that.

  4. Green Party Presidential candidates Stein/Honkala will be on the top of a Green ticket that will include Senate and Congressional, State and local candidates across the country. A vote for Stein/Honkala will help keep the Green Party on the ballot in many states and allow those who are raising money and petitioning this year to run for office in the next election cycle. The movement is building and Russ is right, a vote for the Green Party is a vote for Democracy.

    http://www.gp.org start there and visit and join your state and local Green Party

  5. Yes, yes, I agree–it will be good to get that funding for state parties if Stein gets that 5%. And it will be good to create and keep that ballot line. It’s a compelling reason to vote Green, I admit. Maybe not a sufficient one, but a good one nonetheless.

    But wait. Aren’t we creating Green parties at the state level already? The whole point is that it shouldn’t have to rely on national performance–we should be putting up these candidates as a matter of course. And I’m serious–they should be running for school boards and planning commissions. Think how much easier it would be to get that 5% if there was already strong green representation at local levels. It’s a bottom up process–this is exactly how ALEC and the far right have taken over the republican party–by electing people to school boards and planning commissions, and then moving them up. It’s sort of a repulsive model in that instance, but it clearly works.

  6. You miss one minor but important point. Thanks to the electoral college, the only popular presidential votes that matter are in swing states or those few that apportion delegates according to the popular vote. If you live in Texas or Utah for example, your vote is wasted from the start – there’s simply no way a Obama will win those states. Given that, why not vote for a candidate you can support, rather than “the lesser of two evils?”

  7. wufnik, I think you’re missing key points. The Greens are already running for those offices. There are over 130 elected Greens already.

    The “Tea Party” already had a ballot line. They’re Republicans.

    Maybe you’ve never worked on a campaign before but the ballot line almost always means less signatures needed so there’s more resources for campaigning. I don’t think you understand ballot access. Greens need to take every opportunity to get ballot lines.

    I don’t think you understand the difference between getting on the ballot one time and getting on going ballot access.

    People really should take the time and learn this. Otherwise you defeat yourself. Local partisan candidate NEED BALLOT LINES. This is NOT simply petitioning to run for office. It’s statewide campaigns passing state set thresholds so they DO NOT NEED TO PETITION AS HEAVILY in the future.

  8. Actually, as someone who has run for public office (and won), and who has worked on political campaigns in the past, I do get it. Of course ballot lines will help, and I wasn’t disagreeing with your point. How far down does that go, though? Certainly statewide elections. Does it go to the county level? I don’t know that, actually. Certainly in the local elections I’ve voted in in the past, for some offices–County Sheriff, that sort of thing–it does seem to matter–or at least it’s listed–but for other, more local, offices, like the local Board of Supervisors (or whatever) in various places that I’ve lived, the political affiliation isn’t even mentioned sometimes.

    My point was a bit different–when I say local, I mean it. As I recall, ballot lines don’t matter for town planing commissions, or school boards. But these are critical levels for building a future political constituency. Personally, I’d rather have a couple of greens in these bodies, since this is the level that ALEC is targeting– school boards in particular. Having a couple of greens at the state level is great, but when the local school board is dominated by fundamentalists, and my child is in the public schools, what goes on at the local level may matter a lot more.

    So does the Green Party have a plan to run candidates in lots of school boards and planning commissions around the country? It would be fantastic if they did–I just don’t know.

  9. Greens run hundreds of candidates across the country for local non partisan office. That’s the plan of local Greens. It’s not as if there’s a top down party that controls that. We have three Green mayors in NY alone (non partisan). In almost every case those candidates who win need a ballot line if they want to move up to partisan offices such as county legislator or state house. They’re dead ended otherwise. Greens are already running and winning locally. Time for the next step.

  10. I’m in Portland Maine. We’ve had a lot of Greens elected to local offices, such as school boards, city commissions, water boards, and appointed to citizen police advisory committees, planning boards, watershed, city charter commissions and other environmental offices, some of them nearly attained a Green majority. We’ve had a two-term Green state legislator and legislative aides and offices paid for by the legislature, called the Green Minority Office.The Green Party has been working bottom up for nearly 30 years.

    The Green Party is not a flash in the pan. Young Greens are refreshing the Green Party at every level and the Green Party in turn is a phenomenal political education. Greens are the most incredible organizers in existence. They cut their teeth on the greatest political oppression there is with requirements that are close to, if not, impossible. But Greens do it and have set many markers for achieving against the odds. Greens from their teens to their 90s just don’t give up. The force that powers them is to someday be able to give power and resources back to the people, so that everyone can be guaranteed a decent life. Everyone! Shame on this country letting close to half of its population live in or slide into poverty while doing all that one would expect should return them a good life. The Green Party is committed to this from its roots to the top, as well as many many other life and quality affirming positions, including with foreign policy.

    A vote for the Green presidential ticket is not a wasted vote. No element involved in reaching critical mass is ever wasted. Some day, one vote will tip it. Maybe it will be yours or someone you inspired to vote Green. We can get out of the mess that’s been created for this country by sheer corruption and self-interest. All it takes is courage to vote for the Green Party without fear and inspire others to do the same and not fall into the trap of believing change will happen overnight just because you vote Green. But one thing is sure, if you and others don’t, it never will. If you do, there is a chance of seeing it someday. If you and others don’t, we never will…